You asked, we listened. Follower question of the week.
Q: I’ve heard mention of the “smart method for goal setting”, and setting “smart” goals–erm what?!
A: Yes, smart goals. This is something that tends to come up around the New Year for resolutions, but can be utilized year round, in all different sorts of situations. The Smart Method is a goal setting tactic that works especially well for weight loss and wellness related goals. “Smart” here is an acronym–Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely–for 5 characteristics a good goal incorporates. We explain why this important, and break it down for you, so you can set goals and actually achieve them, here.
WHY SMART GOALS
The thing with goals and resolutions is, no matter how much we intend to reach them, we often start with esteem, get tripped up, and let them taper off. Very few goal setters actually succeed in maintaining their goals in the long term! Part of the problem is the goals themselves. They can be lofty (like vowing to be a better person), indeterminable (i.e. saying you want to slim down) or just down right impossible (if you’re a human and say you want to fly like a bird, that’s just not going to happen in a literal sense).
If you want to achieve a goal, the goal you actually set, what the goals is, matters. It sounds simple and obvious, but it’s part of the process that is often overlooked, and then you’re doomed from the start! With that being said, the first step to achieving goals, is planning them, and this is where The Smart Method comes in. Essentially, to set yourself up for success in reaching your goals, those goals need to be designed in a certain way, and The Smart Method is a formula you can follow to set goals that are, well, smart.
SETTING GOALS THE ‘SMART’ WAY
When it comes to planning your goals, keep in mind that they should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. This tactic works especially well for weight loss and wellness related goals, but can be used for all different types of goals.
SPECIFIC: A good question to ask yourself when creating a specific goal is, “is this goal determinable?” If there is a clear way to tell if the goal is being met (or not) then it’s specific. Rather than saying “I will work out more,” say, “I will work out at least 3 times this week for at least 30 minutes each time.” People are more likely to stick with goals that are specific and focused, rather than goals that are lofty and general, because they are actionable–you either did it or you didn’t do it; You either will or you won’t. The specificity of the goal holds you more accountable because it doesn’t allow for wiggle room, and accountability is key in achieving goals.
MEASURABLE: Make your goals quantitative. Instead of saying “I want to slim down,” craft a goal that includes a unit that can be measured like, “I want to lose 10 pounds.” Wanting to “slim down” is vague and subjective, which makes it harder to monitor and thus harder to stick with. When a goal includes a measurable unit, like X pounds, there is a tangibility to progress–benchmarks–that can be tracked and compared, so you can know for sure when you achieve it.
ATTAINABLE: Setting goals that are too far out of reach can discourage you and leave you feeling defeated. For example, if a walk down the street leaves you feeling winded, accomplishing your goal of climbing Mount Everest by next week is pretty unlikely. A better goal would be to take brisk 20-minute walks, 5 days a week. Soon, that walk down the block will be a walk in the park and with more time, training for that Everest hike won’t be such an uphill battle (puns intended). In terms of weight loss, setting a goal to lose 50 lbs when you don’t have 50 lbs to lose would not only be physically impossible, but downright unhealthy. Creating a goal that is too easy will be defeating as well, as it won’t challenge you and accomplishing it won’t provide the same satisfaction as it would if you worked hard for it. Try to find that healthy medium between attainable and challenging when setting your health and weight loss goals.
REALISTIC: Unless you’re a contestant on The Biggest Loser, your life doesn’t stop just because you’ve decided to pursue a new goal. You still have to go to work, you still have to pay your bills, and you still only have 24 hours in your day. Therefore, when setting a goal, consider your current obligations and situations. Realistic goals are goals that can be achieved within those confines. What can you realistically commit to do? To determine if a goal is realistic take barriers, like time and money, into consideration. It would be unrealistic to resolve to take a $35 spin class five times a week when your weekly budget for workout classes is more around $5. That’s a financial barrier. If your job requires you to be there from 9am to 5pm, and the only spin classes are within those 8 hours, that’s a time barrier. Always aim to set goals that fit into your life so that you can achieve them.
TIMELY: The best “specific” and “measurable” goals incorporate a time constraint (i.e. I will lose 10 lbs in 2 months). While you want to avoid setting a time limit that’s so far in the future that you lose focus and/or forget about your goal, you also need to give yourself time to achieve your goal. In terms of weight loss, remember, it doesn’t happen overnight; don’t expect to lose weight quickly and keep it off. For sustainable weight loss, and to keep your morale high, aim to lose 1-2 lbs per week.
Therefore, a SMART weight-related goal would be:
I will lose 15 lbs in 3 months. I will aim for 1-2 lbs. per week and I will do this by following the meal plan my Registered Dietitian provided for me, and exercising on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 30 minutes at a gym near my house. This goal is very specific: the number of lbs in total, and along the way, how you are doing it (following meal plan and exercising), which meal plan, and where and when you are working out, for how long, and how often you are working out, is all included. The ultimate goal of 15 lbs is a measurable factor, as is the 1-2 lbs per week and 30 minutes of exercising 3 times per week. This goal is attainable and realistic: 15 lbs total, at a rate of 1-2 lbs per week is completely plausible, and the amount of time you are spending at the gym is manageable enough that you can commit to it and follow through, without having to put your life on hold. Following the meal plan is also a realistic method to go about reaching this goal, in contrast to say, looking in the mirror, closing your eyes and wishing the weight off. The 3 months time constraint makes it timely, but the per week clause gives it a timely factor too.
By following the SMART structure, questions that could otherwise arise in the process and throw you off are already answered, and there is an extra level of focus included, both of which work together so you can set out on your goal, and actually accomplish the things you want to accomplish.
While the Smart Method described here is geared towards weight management goals, it can be used for all sorts of goal setting and task accomplishing. Resolving to be a more avid reader? Your goal could be, “I will read for at least 20 minutes before bed, 3 times per week, so that I can finish 4 new books in the next 3 months.” And you can make it even more specific by picking out the exact 4 books you are to read before you start. Thinking you should be nicer to your grandma? Your goal could be to give nana a call on your commute home from work, every 3 weeks, and vow to send a random check in text once a week. Before you know it, you’ll be updating grandma on all your life events and won’t have to think twice about making sure you did it.
Once your goals are set, then it’s time to actually achieve them. For tips on how to achieve your goals and resolutions, click here.